Editor’s note: The following piece comes to you from Roscoe Whalan, an Australian reporter from Adelaide. Roscoe has done work for ESPN TrueHoop affiliate ClipperBlog in the past, and we’re happy to have his introduction to new Jazzman Joe Ingles on Salt City Hoops. Follow Roscoe on Twitter at @RoscoeWhalan7.
Well, Jazz fans, congratulations, you’ve landed yourself another Australian rookie.
Don’t worry; Joe Ingles isn’t another 19-year-old with out-of-this-world potential. He’s a proven baller who, after spending the past couple of years overseas, is ready to play.
After a less than impressive stint in the City of Angels, the Los Angeles Clippers cut Ingles on Sunday. The Jazz swooped, claiming the Australian swingman off waivers Tuesday, and although the 6’8 Ingles has never played a minute in the NBA, he’s been on the radar of many teams for some time.
Now, he joins fellow Aussie and friend, Dante Exum in Utah, as the pair tries to navigate their way as rookies through the NBA season.
For both players, it’s a dream come true. Their relationship stretches back a long way. Besides growing up in the early 2000s following typical NBA stars, Dante Exum had an idol closer to home – Joe Ingles. In fact, Ingles was the first autograph a young Exum ever obtained. Indeed, Exum was such a big fan he even used to rock an Ingles South Dragons jersey (a local expansion franchise that folded after just three seasons).
In a touch of serendipity, Ingles was also 19 when he debuted professionally in the Australian National Basketball League. In his first game, Ingles scored 29 points – an NBL record – and went on to become Rookie of the Year.
Exum had barely started high school when Ingles first began flirting with a career in the NBA. Back in 2009, Ingles floated near the bottom of mock drafts in the second round as another raw, yet tantalizing international prospect. But he went undrafted and so began his long road to the NBA.
Playing abroad, Ingles didn’t put up giddy numbers by any stretch of the imagination (as often is the case when playing in Europe) but proved to be a competitor, culminating in a Euroleague championship with Maccabi Tel Aviv last season (under the tutelage of new Cleveland Cavaliers coach, David Blatt).
The Australian brings a unique skillset to the table. For starters, he’s an unorthodox, left-hander; slicing his way through the lane for a variety scoop-shots, floaters and leaners – he’s nearly impossible to guard.
Ingles is also an exceptional playmaker. He’s got great basketball IQ and uses his height to see over the top of defenders and make the right pass. He fits the mould of a point forward, comfortable bringing the ball up and relishing the opportunity to create in the half court.
As for his relationship with Dante, well, that flourished when Exum joined the ranks of the Australian national team. The former idol was now a teammate. Most recently, the pair bunked together during the World Championships in Spain.
And while it was Exum many tuned in to see play for the Boomers, Ingles stole the show. “Jingles”, as he’s affectionately known, led the team averaging 11.4 points and 3.2 rebounds to go along with 3.4 assists in just over 30 minutes per game. He was by far Australia’s best creator, getting teammates involved and playing the role of ‘go-to-guy’ when the team needed a bucket.
Not surprisingly, his performance at the World Cup meant, once again, a chance at the NBA came knocking and Ingles signed with the LA Clippers. While Ingles was considered to be a candidate for sneaking onto the Clippers’ final roster, he never quite got his chance. In five preseason games he played just 37 minutes and averaged less than a point per game.
In those scant few minutes where Ingles did play, he showed excellent poise and decision-making; creating plays with baseline drives leading into wraparound passes, often ending in hockey assists. He’s not a player that lets the ball stick, which is exactly what Quin Snyder has preached as his offensive philosophy. If Utah’s fluid ball movement during preseason’s anything to go by, Ingles will slide in nicely to the offense as a rangey point forward.
And, while his shortcomings defensively are well documented, having a strong defender around like Rudy Gobert will help cover his difficulties defending the perimeter.
In LA, Ingles just didn’t quite fit. When Jordan Farmar suffered a back injury, Jared Cunningham seized his opportunity and proved he had (just) enough to make the roster– snatching the final spot from Ingles.
Now, Ingles has another chance in a far better situation.
The Jazz are trying to rebuild their franchise, and, despite being a rookie, Ingles will be the third oldest member of the squad. While he’s already a valuable mentor to Exum (and this is a smart signing by virtue of that alone) he’s also exceptionally talented with a potent offensive arsenal.
What’s the best part about this Aussie rookie? We should get to see all of that right away.